Jasper @The Broad!
- By Andrew Fish
- Photos Courtesy of The Broad Museum
The Jasper Johns exhibit “Something Resembling Truth” is up and running at the Broad, and with it is a chance to see more than 120 paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, representing six decades of work by the renowned, groundbreaking artist.
When Johns’ works first made their way to galleries in the late 1950s, a great change in the art world was at hand. His paintings of flags and targets had roots in the Abstract Expressionism that dominated at the time, yet focused on simple, immediately recognizable symbols.
His American flag pieces, for which he is best known, are a study in encaustic painting — a technique involving hot wax mixed with pigments that form a thick paint, which when applied draws the eye to each distinct touch of the brush. Instead of the red, white and blue remaining solid and steadfast, each stripe on Johns’ flags tells a multitude of stories, and the patch of blue is as alive and dynamic as the stars it surrounds. “Three Flags,” which he completed in 1958, takes this technique and applies it to a trio of successively smaller flags, laid one upon another for a painting in three dimensions.
His target pieces offer a similar experience — solidity replaced by the uneven textures of movement. Johns often complements this image with sculpted faces, bringing a human perspective directly into the art itself. As he does with familiar symbols, the target is explored time and again, in black and white or even entirely in green, with the indistinct image coming into sharp relief when the viewer’s attention is applied.
Johns’ 1964 multimedia piece “Watchman” is perhaps an image of falling, or launching, or maybe the emptying or filling of a soul. The work incorporates a wax cast of the artist’s friend’s leg and a section of a dining-room chair, which are affixed — upside-down — to the canvas, and then invite the oil paint to take over. Orange, green and gray pour from the extremity, then drip to the bottom by force of gravity. A panel of the primary colors appears off to the side, while the suggestion of the words “red,” “yellow” and “blue” exist in a fog and disappear behind the action.
The letters within “Watchman” are part of a larger theme that runs through Johns’ body of work. His homage to text is seen again in 1962’s “Fool’s House,” which features as its centerpiece a household broom hanging on a hook, with sections of it painted gray — a color that dominates the canvas and serves to give the implement motion amid its stasis. The name of the piece itself appears in stencil-style characters, while a decidedly cruder cursive with accompanying helpful arrow validates our notion that this is, in fact, a “broom.”
The artist’s 1989 10-plate lithograph “Between the Clock and the Bed” further embraces Johns’ focus on repetition, with the line-and-angle pattern he’s often explored appearing in a spectrum of colors melding from one to another on a horizontal plane. Purples and greens bookending a vibrant orange — with a patch in the corner offering a brightness and increased complexity, and a hovering window peering into the pattern on a smaller scale.
In 2010, Johns produced an untitled piece in spit-bite aquatint, soft-ground, drypoint, and photogravure, which references the image that tests ones mode of intake — do you see the vase or the profile? The yellow square floating in the center, and the dynamic human silhouette, may just distract you from the red-white-and-blue motif that brings us back to the beginning. To remove all doubt, a sliver of white stars on blue hides away on the far edge, peeking in like an old friend.
Head over to the Broad for “Something Resembling Truth” — a deep and remarkable look into the work of Jasper Johns. Explore sixty years of inquiry, language, symbols, color and evolution, as explored by one of the most influential living artists!
The Cross-Hatched series pays homage to Jasper Johns and his relationship with choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage. This series was co-curated and is performed by pianist Adam Tendler, and will feature legendary vocalist Joan La Barbara. There will be three distinct nights of performances around this series, the first is this week and then Wed, March 14 and Wed, April 18th. For all things happening at The Broad, click here.